You are spending more time in front of your TV these days? Aren't you? Hasn't your broadband bill gone up with all the Netflix streaming and binging on Amazon Prime Video? All because you want to retain some sort of sanity after a workday that never really seems to end. And you cannot ideally step out anywhere without everyone losing their calmness over it. With TV, you need good sound. So, you count the money you have and decide to buy a good soundbar? After all, you had always dreamt of making that home theater experience work some day. But which one? When you think of Dolby Atmos in soundbars, you probably assume it is going to be really expensive. And mostly, you would be spot on too. Not anymore though. At a time when staying indoors has more people relying on their televisions to stay sane and keep themselves entertained, audio is back in the limelight. TV speakers usually don’t get the job done, even for premium TVs you probably paid a lot of money for. Also, soundbars could be the way to go for most homes, considering the space constraints, which would rule out the bulk and ostentatiousness of a 5.1 channel speaker system, complete with an AV receiver. That is where something as capable as the Sony HT-G700 Soundbar becomes very relevant for these times. And your home floorplan. And your budget.
Sony has given the HT-G700 Soundbar a rather tough task list. Create an immersive home theater experience, complete with Dolby Atmos and the height as well as surround sound effects that come with it. It is priced at Rs 39,990 and its positioning makes it significantly less expensive than the Bose Soundbar 500 which is priced around Rs 59,000 and that also does not have the Dolby Atmos goodness. The Sony HT-G700 sits just above the Sony HT-X8500 2.1 channel Dolby Atmos soundbar which is priced around Rs 30,990 and has a built-in subwoofer.
Getting This Ready: The Popcorn Are In The Microwave
Setting up and getting the Sony HT-G700 Soundbar going is quite uncomplicated. This is a 3.1 channel soundbar which means you don’t have the complexity and the clutter of setting up rear speakers for instance. For most homes, that isn’t a limitation but instead a blessing in disguise—no more wires snaking around the entire place, no need to find a space worthy of placing the rear speakers and it all becomes a very simple in-a-box sort of experience. The thing is, you can’t add these speakers later, so that’s something to keep in mind in case you are eyeing an upgrade at some stage.
What you get is, well, a soundbar. That means it is simple enough to get going. The bar measures 980 x 64 x 108 mm. Then there is the wireless subwoofer in the mix, and that really adds to the experience. No wires again, which is great. The placement of this soundbar is something you need to pay attention to. The Sony HT-G700 Soundbar is designed to create what Sony describes as “vertical audio”. That means it can’t be hidden away in a shelf, because it needs clear line of sight of the roof in the room for the audio effects to work. That means you need to keep it on the top of a table. Great if you have a wall mounted TV, but it could just about get in the way if your TV is also table-top installed. The controls are also on the top panel.
Sony has given the HT-G700 Soundbar two HDMI ports—the HDMI input means you don’t need to buy a new TV to enjoy Dolby Atmos sound if you already have a media player which supports that. simply plug it in here. There is also the optical audio-in if you are drawing the audio from the TV itself. And then there is Bluetooth as well, for almost all your devices.
The Feature List: We Need More Popcorn
Audio processing is what the Sony HT-G700 Soundbar really excels at. Not just Dolby Atmos, but there is support for DTS X, the Vertical Surround Engine, multiple sound modes (cinema, music, voice and night) and if you select the Immersive AE button on the remote, where AE stands for Audio Experience, you will get sound upscaled to 7.2 channel audio. A simple glance of the specs sheet tells us this soundbar supports (yes, take a deep breath) Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Dual mono, DTS, DTS HD High Resolution Audio, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS ES, DTS 96/24, DTS:X and LPCM audio formats. You might want to particularly pay attention to DTS X, the Dolby Audio rival, which a lot of Blu-Ray discs have—if you have a big collection of those, the Sony HT-G700 Soundbar has an immediately advantage over most of its rivals.
Movie Time: What Other Popcorn Flavors Do We Have?
We have experienced the vertical audio claims in Sony soundbars before as well, and the HT-G700 Soundbar also delivers on the promise. A lot of behind-the-scenes geekery is involved in this, but the end result is that you not only get the wide surround sound experience, but there are times when you’ll feel as if the sound is coming from above you. For a single unit system such as a soundbar to be able to replicate that is quite an achievement. But that isn’t all. Sit down to watch a movie, and you’ll be impressed by the dialogue clarity, the reproduction of the finer details such as the shell casing of a bullet landing on a hard floor and the sound moves along with the movement on the screen. That’s all great for pretty much every movie genre you may want to immerse yourself in. It isn’t always the case though, and many soundbars have fallen at that moment, but the Sony HT-G700 Soundbar manages to pull out very wide and rich sound from what is essentially a very compact box design.
You have that one magic button on the remote called Immersive AE. That is basically the shortcut to enable intelligent audio processing designed to boost certain elements of sound. Basically, the audio processing understands the audio track and its contents, and ‘upscales’ the sound. Simply put, it boosts vocals where it feels the need, improves mids where it thinks that’s necessary and, in a way, constantly manages the equalizer and effects. For the large part, this worked well for me for movies. But for TV shows and sports (well, it was mostly Formula 1), things sounded more like how I prefer them with Immersive AI turned off.
This soundbar can go really loud too, so much so that the windowpanes can vibrate quite audibly if you go a bit over-enthusiastic with the volume levels on particularly very action-oriented scenes in movies or some rather upbeat music.
The subwoofer is just as effective in adding the lower frequencies into the mix, be it for movies or music. The thing to note about this subwoofer is that it doesn’t have that trail of rumble which can be disconcerting in apartments—not everyone lives in a bungalow or a luxurious mansion with a separate home theater room. This will not shake things off tables in your living room yet adds enough bass to make for a complete audible experience. While a soundbar certainly enhances the vocals and the surround sound effect, a good subwoofer such as this one simply elevates the experience towards completion.
The Last Word: Yummy Popcorn. Brilliant Sony HT-G700 Soundbar
The thing is, all the geekery and the virtualization tech that Sony has put in place in the HT-G700 Soundbar has all come together very nicely indeed. It sounds great, delivers on the sound from above and is future proofing your binge-watching sessions with Dolby Atmos audio. Yet, all this comes together in a form factor that just doesn’t take up much space. It gets you a separate subwoofer as well which really gets you the bass effect as well for movies and music. And well, vertical sound has to be heard to be believed.